Blogger: Wendy Lawton
I just returned from accompanying one of my clients, Lauraine Snelling, on her five-state, twelve-day FaithWords Wake the Dawn book tour. Several times I was asked by book store events coordinators or librarians if most authors traveled with their agents. No, I’d answer, most agents couldn’t possibly go with each of their touring clients. But I have to say, I’m so glad I went. For me it was a refresher course in building readership.
Since the day after Labor Day is the traditional back-to-school day all across the country, let me spell out some of the things I learned or some of the things that were refreshed for me on this trip:
- A successful tour is always a partnership between the author’s effort, the publisher’s work and the preparation and publicity done by the event location. One store we visited did little to publicize the event but they were bolstered by the publicity the author did on their behalf. All those who came had heard about it through the author’s publicity. The stores and libraries that were standing room only happened because of work on all fronts.
- Libraries were the big surprise for us on this tour. Those libraries that are gathering places for their communities blew us away with what they were able to accomplish. The library in Detroit Lakes, MN ended up with close to 150 readers. Every chair was filled and the bookstore that had been enlisted to sell books sold nearly every book they brought. The friends of the library made traditional Norwegian food–rosettes and lefsa, along with fruit trays, punch and coffee. The head librarian, Mary Haney, had been on radio and television for the week preceding the visit and filmed an interview with Lauraine to air post-visit.
- Speaking of libraries, I am more convinced than ever that more of our energy needs to be poured into marketing to libraries. They are the ones who build loyal readers for us. Check out our own Library Insider-– a proven way to market to libraries. Lauraine did a Library Insider mailing before this trip and had email after email from librarians throughout the whole time on the road. This is a place to invest some time and energy. I loved what I saw happening in libraries.
- Don’t give up on big box stores. The biggest event of the tour happened the last night at a Barnes & Noble in Fargo, ND. More than 200 readers showed up. It was probably closer to 300 because they ran out of chairs and people crowded each side aisle as well. It took Lauraine well past closing time to sign all the books. The store sold out of many of the books.
- Was it worth it for me to take two weeks away from my desk, fly to Detroit and then drive 2000 miles before flying home again? Yes! Besides the fact that I was able to have a meal with four other clients along the way, stop at two publishing houses and spend time with some of the smartest retailers and librarians in the book world, the tour provided me with much time to analyze the books on the shelves and wander through the stacks at the libraries. There is no better way to get an overview of our industry.
- What about book tours? Are they still viable? Yes, but only for authors with a solid reader base. The author has to be able to bring readers into the events. Very few publishers are doing book tours because they are costly, time-consuming to set up and very often don’t net results. But when the author is well-loved, articulate and already has a large reader base, there is nothing better.
- Lauraine worked hard on this tour, speaking for forty minutes at each event, answering questions and signing books until every last reader had a chance to speak with her. But as Lauraine said, Faith Words put their promotional dollars behind the tour. Her part was to connect with the readers. Besides, she loves this. 🙂
- Lest you think it all glamor, picture changing hotels each day and lugging suitcases in and out of the car at each stop. *GROAN*
- Well, I’m still tired from this grueling trip but. . . ask away. What would you like to know about author tours?
Are book tours still a viable way to promote a new release? Click to Tweet
Five states and 2000 miles driven– what I learned about book tours. Click to Tweet
On the road again. Are book tours worth the time and cost? Click to Tweet
Carol McAdams Moore
I followed Lauraine’s book tour with great interest! (I even checked to see if there was any way for me to travel to one of the stops.) Could you elaborate on the kind of publicity that she did prior to the tour?
Lauraine contacted each event personally and sent bookmarks in spite of the fact that the publisher set everything up. She sent her e-newsletter highlighting the tour. She put the tour information on her website. she posted it on Facebook. She also contacted friends– who also are her biggest supporters– and made arrangements to meet groups for lunch and even meet with a book club along the route.
Another of my clients, Debbie Macomber, sorts her email list by zip code and sends an invitation to those in the geographical area of a tour stop.
Lisa Van Engen
I have seen quite a few authors at my public library. They are a great resource. Thanks for getting my mind turning 🙂 My favorite visit was Isabel Wilkerson who wrote the Warmth of Other Suns.
We were blown away by the way libraries are promoting authors. They showed us the gorgeous displays they’d set up in advance and told us how the displays had been decimated by patrons checking out the featured books as fast as they could display them.
Wow, I loved this insider’s look at a book tour. It seems like a lot of work but also very rewarding for an author who loves people. 🙂 I have a better understanding of what goes into a book tour.
One question I’m curious about is how did Lauraine and you decide which stores and libraries to set up as a tour stop?
Good question, Jeanne. I’ve wondered how it was decided to travel to that particular part of the country.
The publisher set those up with input from Lauraine. She kept a list of all the stores and groups who had requested a visit from Lauraine and she gave that to Faith Words. They worked hard to send her to the places that were already Lauraine strongholds.
Most authors will tell you to avoid big cities. There’s too much to do in metropolitan areas and the readers there are just too busy to show up somewhere en masse.
That’s interesting, what you said about avoiding big cities. It makes sense though. It sounds like Lauraine was instrumental in the decision making, as she had already built a following in the places you stopped. At least that’s what I am guessing.
This fascinates me. 🙂
I’m SO glad libraries were a key part of the tour. Libraries offer so much to their communities and it just seems so friendly to do events there. a library near me even has a sort of community room attached. Now MY wheels are turning!
I’ll also echo Carol’s question in wondering what the pre-tour publicity looked like.
The libraries usually partner with a bookstore for selling books. (Libraries, apparently are not allowed by charter to be booksellers.) So each library stop was a two-fer.
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing these highlights. I’m so glad it went well for both of you, and I’m grateful for the encouragement in this post. My local library has lots of community events and I’ve attended a writers group there for the past few months, so I’m planning on talking to a librarian this week to ask about their interest in an author event should The Dream come true.
Wendy, it was so great to meet you and Lauraine at the Stark County Public Library/Lake Community Branch in Uniontown, Ohio on 8/21. Lauraine is such a dynamic speaker. I can only hope I could be such a great speaker if and when I am published and happened to do an author tour.
Question, you and I had our picture taken together, anyway I can get a copy? Thanks
Lori in Ohio
Lori, it was so nice to meet you in person and to hear about all you are doing. I visited the website and loved the butterfly labyrinth you designed. Yes, as soon as I get some order to my desk and email I’ll send you the photo.
We loved Uniontown Library– great people!
Thank you about the comment about my butterfly labyrinth. I am glad you liked it and I do hope people will walk it and find comfort in it.
I think its time that I should start blogging. What I am writing will probably be my first blog (or two or three at the most). I think people will be surprised by what I actually have to say about it.
Who traveled the farthest to meet Lauraine?
I’m really not surprised at how the Lord blessed your trip. Lauraine’s heart is huge, and one has only to meet her to feel like the most important person in the room. I imagine the word of mouth from those who attended will spread like ripples in the reader pond.
Have you represented Lauraine since the very beginning of her writing journey?
And btw, welcome back to the west coast!
We didn’t ask that question– I wonder who traveled farthest. I know my former pastor and his wife came from Decorah, Iowa to Rochester, MN to ostensibly say hi to me, but the truth is, Deanne is a huge Lauraine Snelling fan.
I’ve only represented Lauraine for a few years though we’ve been friends for a long time.
And thanks for the welcome home. It will be short lived as I leave for Texas and then ACFW in six short days. I wonder if it’s time enough to get through more than 1000 emails?
I was so sad to miss your stop in Grand Rapids. Ironically, I was in California at the time. The library market is definitely interesting. I’ll be checking out Library Insider. You mentioned the one library had food, making it more like an event or a party than just the author speaking and signing. Do you find events that were themed and had other things (like food or prizes) go better than a standard talk and signing?
I don’t know. I do know that having content– like speaking or offering a seminar– is key. People don’t want to travel all that way just to stand in a signing line.
I wish I had had more time in Grand Rapids– I have so many friends there. I waved to all of you.
Libraries prefer authors plan an event rather than just a signing. If you are a novelist talk about the story behind your story, the research you did (especially if it’s a historical novel), or your writing process.
Or, you can tie your event to a special library activity such as National Library Week. You’ll find a list of library events throughout the year at:
Friends of the Library groups often provide food for author events.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Libraries here might not be so perky and helpful about hosting a Christian author. But then again, the region I live in is not like Toronto or Vancouver, where people get uptight about publicly funded areas being “used to promote religion”.
Some day, when I’m majorly famous (Ha!) I’d love to take a book tour to all the itty bitty towns I stopped in last summer on my research trip. Oh, and Rome. And Amalfi. And Barcelona?
I’ll tell you, Jennifer, some of the best stops are the locales you set your stories in. People love to be living in the very setting of a book.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I plan on contacting the library and historical society in Flagstaff, as well as the Indian Bible College, which is in Flagstaff.
I also hope to send a copy of the book to the President of the Navajo Nation, and yup, I have the nerve to do it.
All this of course, hinges on that whole “getting published” thing. 😉
I have met a few die-hard Lauraine fans over the years and am always amazed at their fervent devotion. (I’ve met her and LOVE her as a person, but I’m talking about her long-time readers). It’s much the same with Debbie Macomber fans. As a new author, I wonder if there’s something these two authors have done to encourage their readers? Is it simply putting out great books year after year? Is it connecting with the readers on social media and on book tours?
Both of them will tell you they made their fervent readers one relationship at a time. So it means a writer has a lot of building to do to get to that tipping point, but each new reader is a step toward it.
Both of the authors you name, however, are people-persons. They LOVE to meet readers and are energized by it. We introverts need to work harder to make connections– they don’t necessarily come easy.
Can you share examples of how your introverted clients have connected with their readers? This inquiring introverted mind would like to know. 🙂
We may be introverts but when it comes to tours, we need to behave like extraverts. You’ll find it easier than you think because the people come to see you and they already love your books. It’s much easier to find common ground.
The difference is that extraverts get energized by these kind of events while the rest of it give it our best and then need to recharge. We get energized by quiet time.
Wendy, I’m so glad you traveled with Lauraine and that I was able to meet both of you on this trip! I’ve been a big fan of Lauraine for many years, and as I write this my daughter Ellis has her nose buried in the book Dog Daze, which Lauraine signed for her. I’m thrilled to hear that your stops in Detroit Lakes and Fargo were so well received! Lauraine did a marvelous job communicating her heart for writing. I’m not surprised that she closed down the Barnes and Noble. See you in Indianapolis next week!
It was such fun to see a fellow Bookie (that’s what we call clients of Books & Such) or two on the trip. It’s one of the nicest ways we can support each other.
And yes, ACFW! Can’t wait.
I am beginning to set up a few book signings for a book coming out this spring. I am a 1st time author so have a very small readership. A book signing seems like it would be a waste of time for me and the book store but have been thinking about making it more of an event…with the theme around my book on empty nest strategies. I was thinking about “Adding AWE in awesome…making their senior year memorable.”
I am pulling together a team to do approx. 4 to 6 events. A photographer who will show moms the best way to capture special moments using their phone of camera. I have a gal who specializes in sending gift baskets and will show people how to creatively stay in touch. I am hoping to have a financial person touch on the basics of budgeting..and then there is ME..who will be talking about the fact that transition is a normal part of growing up..for all of us! I am thinking this might be a 1:30 minute event with some fun give-aways… ( and book signings.)
What do you think about this type of connection? Those who come would all fit within my readership. Is it a good idea for a new author vs. a book signing?
I respect your opinion.
Marci, as usual you are the most creative marketer I know. I think your idea is fabulous. Your are giving solid content. I want to come!
Don’t forget for the giveaways you might want to ask author friends to donate books for the gifts. It gives them exposure as well.
I think you’ll have many a book store who’ll want to do your event. Don’t forget libraries– a good library would eat that up. And you could sell your books at a book table or arrange with a bookseller to come and sell.
I will totally invite you Wendy! I am totally going to talk to libraries and even have a fabric store interested as well as a few churches…you have to go where readers are, not necessarily where books are..thanks so much for your encouragement!
I have a pressing question.
When I go on my book tour, is it proper to have my dog – be my literary roadie?
I thought your dog was the author. Unfortunately I believe he’s having second thoughts about bringing you.
Welcome back, Wendy! Such fun to hear about all this–Lauraine is so wonderful at connecting with readers, and the two of you are an amazing team. Must have been fun! 🙂
Most of it was fun but I’ll tell you some of the days were just plain hard. Like the day we drove from Grand Rapids all the way down around Lake Michigan and up to Green Bay. We hit Milwaukee and it felt like the entire town emptied itself onto the freeway. We found out there was a Packers game that night and it was Milwaukee night. Eek! It took FOREVER.
Way to go, Lauraine and Wendy!
Very interesting! Writers shouldn’t rule out libraries that have a vibrant reading community, book groups, etc. I’m with our local Friends chapter, and we’re working on getting some local authors to come do readings.
Food doesn’t hurt, either. 🙂
I was blown away by the libraries we visited. They have made themselves the center of their communities. People streaming in and out all day. Photography competitions, art collections, canning seminars, children’s reading groups, contests, classes on how to use your e-reader devices– there was no end to the creativity.
Kathy Boyd Fellure
Welcome home Wendy and Lauraine!
I followed your journey in prayer and your posts. What an amazing book tour!
I love the libraries too. I can see the collective effort had terrific results. Lauraine has a faithful following that loves her, she is such a warm and kind-hearted woman of God.
Reading your blog today is tremendously encouraging and also a reminder to do the pre-marketing that can make a huge difference on such a tour.
I know so far my only book signings have been for children’s books, and many in the Lake Tahoe niche area where the stories take place, but the libraries on all four shores have supported me by hosting author readings, with refreshments, and special activities for the children to participate in with me afterward. (My favorite, we made button necklaces for the Nana’s Tin of Buttons book)The parents and grandparents enjoy the chat time with the author as much as the children do and it helps build the reader base for my pre-published novels.
Question ~ Did Facebook help in building Lauraine’s audience or was it more press releases and community briefs published in the local papers? Was local radio and TV better exposure than Twitter and other social media?
Praying for reviving and refreshment before you head off to ACFW!
Kathy, you have brilliant interactions with your readers. Inspirational I tell ya. 🙂
Facebook definitely helped. At each event Lauraine asked her “Facebook Family” to raise their hands because she had promised them extra hugs. The hands went up at every event.
Lauraine was also faithful to collect names at each event– she’s going to have some data input task. Each event builds the base.
Kathy Boyd Fellure
Thank you, Wendy. It helps to learn all the Facebook time we put in really does connect us with our readers. I admire Lauraine for her personal commitment to her fans. She sets a wonderful example for the rest of us to follow. I love the extra hugs idea!
Hello, I need some advice. My book was just released and is actually doing very well at bookstores so far, and is even the #1 weekly bestseller at Kinokuniya (a very popular bookstore here in Singapore). One thing I am unclear about is when private events are arranged who exactly is expected to provide the books? Same goes for Indie bookshops? They’re not carrying my book even though customers ask for them. How do I help rectify this situation?I have no experience in this field. THANK YOU!!
If your event is at a bookstore, the bookstore orders the books and makes the sales. You do the event gratis to support your book and the store and to make new readers.
If the event is at a library, the library may enlist a bookstore to come and do sales or you can bring a friend and man the book table. Of course if you sell the books yourself, those sales will not count toward the advance you’re trying to earn back nor will they help get you onto bestseller lists, but you have the possibility of making some extra money at the event.
If you are doing a speaking gig, you’ll have a book table at the back of the room. You provide the books and you make the sales. The organization may ask you for a small percentage or you may gift the organization (if it is a nonprofit) with a percentage. Or not.
BTW, it’s strange that a store won’t order your book for a customer. We understand that most stores only carry a small percentage of the books out there– sticking mostly with known authors until someone new comes onto their radar. But they should be able to order the book for customers. (Enough order requests and they’ll start stocking it.)
For your local area you may want to have a gold sticker made up that says “Local Author” (easily removable without damage) and when you stop in a store offer to provide them with stickers and autographed books.
Kathy Boyd Fellure
Wendy, What surprised you the most?
Thanks Wendy, this was very helpful! Btw, I love your blog-just one thing I never (even though I signed up for it) get follow up comments (or replies) so I always need to go back and scroll down all the comments to see if you answered…any way to rectify this.
Publisher just told me now that if the event has an expected attendance of 100 then they will provide books and bookseller.
Haven’t done any smaller events but will buy copies myself if I do, I guess. Thanks!!!
This was a great post and an enlightening discussion. Thanks for the post, Wendy — and to everyone else who contributed.
Barbara McDowell Whitt
Wendy, your commentary about Lauraine Snelling and other authors giving book talks in libraries reminds me that for the past two years, my alma mater, Park University in Parkville, Missouri has sponsored a book talk by one of its graduates in the library. I was on campus in the early 60s. My blog, A 1961-65 Park College Diary, is a compilation of the nightly diary entries I wrote while there.
It occurs to me that authors should contact librarians at their places of higher education about giving book presentations. The ripple effect could spread exponentially and the waves could keep coming and coming.